Taobao, Lao Wai, We Made It!

kraft dinner, macaroni cheese
JP's order: Macaroni bonus Hong Pao with 20 Yuan from the vendor! Lucky him.. 😀

Taobao? Finally we made it! Being ‘Lao Wai’ – Chinese for foreigner or ‘outsider’- with super limited Chinese can be very frustrating; especially when you really want to be as independent as possible living in China. Yet, regardless of how good your Chinese is, the level of independence in your daily life is still quite limited for such public services as banking and, not to mention, bureaucracy. Banking? Here we go! We’ve just successfully passed such a long, complicated and frustrating experience doing online shopping with flying colours.

Taobao is the most popular Chinese online shopping site.  Some others are:,,, and many more.  We picked Taobao since it provides you with almost anything you need; from super cheap to quite expensive goods. Originally, the main intention was to see if the debit card worked for online shopping, with a further hope to find and order ‘ragi tempeh’ (Indonesian), or, tempeh starter, easily for me.

So, after agonizingly long process of online banking madness, we spent a couple days meeting with an assistant from JP’s school who has been very helpful and patient.  We went back and forth to our banker and tried to order some products with and without her.  I can say, it’s impossible to begin to execute your first trial without any local’s assistance.  Even though Google chrome or Internet Explorer can help you with translating, there are still a couple steps that’ll make you walk in circles. To me, that’s the time I’d start cursing the heavens in frustration and desperation. Overall, it just feels like too much!

rendang, bumbu, instant,
My order: Rendang Instant Ingredients. Yumm!

Fortunately, JP has much more patience and persistence than I do. So, I gave up for a little while and JP took over. This time, he met with the assistant at the school and succeeded!  I think he said the problems with our first attempts were related to the USB provided by the bank not being installed properly, and some other minute technicalities. While I was not fully in agreement with that since at home on our PC I tried all ports and found one which worked well, but still there were more problems and language barriers while completing the online transaction. Well, how on earth would I have any idea about which buttons to press?  That’s why we needed the local assistance that didn’t seem to be a walk in the park for them either.

Anyways, as I’ve said already, he finally made it. We ordered Indonesian Kecap Manis ABC (sweet soy sauce) which somehow ‘turned into’ Kecap Asin ABC (salty soy sauce) instead, Kecap Manis Bango (fortunately this one was right!), Indofood Bumbu Rendang for us, and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. The Kecaps, were received a couple days ago, while the Bumbu Rendang and Macaroni & Cheese had arrived just yesterday. It’s very relieving to have it all in the bag!  Next goal is a PayPal trial and finding Ragi tempeh online; unfortunately, I couldn’t find any Ragi tempeh on Taobao. Am I ready for the next Chinese online banking experiment? With JP around, yes I am..

kecap asin ABC, kecap manis ABC
Salty Soy Sauce (Kecap Asin ABC) and Sweet Soy Sauce (Kecap manis Bango)


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